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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Staring Into the Face Of Death On Halloween

The face was all black and marbled and cracked. It had thin ridges protruding near the cheekbones with the hint of dried blood seeping out of them. I suppose at my age you get used to these things because I wasn’t scared; well maybe just a little bit. I am twelve years old and a boy genius. I know when someone is trying to fake me out, and yet this damn face looked real somehow. The worst part was that it was right in my face. I guess I was too nervous to rip it off and expose another young guy like me out for some Halloween pranks and candy. The part that really scared me was that it kept following me. Why was it after me? What had I done?

I tried to run away from it; dodging and weaving down a side alley a few blocks from my home, but no matter what I did, or how fast I ran, it stayed right in my face. I yelled out at it.

I said, “Get away from me. You’re not real. You are just trying to scare me and screw up my mind. I have your number. You’re a phony. I’m not scared of you. You’re just a Halloween prankster. Get out of my face.”

The death mask didn’t respond. There wasn’t a sound coming from it. It just kept dogging me. I tried to rationalize about what was happening to me.

“Johnny,” I said to myself. “Don’t let this creep get the better of you. You are too smart to be scared off by some dumb Halloween mask. Don’t let him scare you. Laugh in his face.

That’s when it happened. I gathered all my courage and told the Face of Death I knew he was a phony and I laughed in his face. And then I felt it. It was like a searing pain in the pit of my stomach. I felt so sick; I thought I was going to die. I dropped my own mask of an alien crocodile man-eater, and ran home as fast as I could, yelling at the top of my lungs.

“Mommy, mommy, let me in. The Face of Death is after me and he is trying to kill me. I feel like my stomach is going to explode. I am in terrible pain. He is killing me. Help me. I’m too young to die like this.”

My mother tried her best not to laugh in my face. She asked me how much candy I had eaten. I was so scared that I told the truth for a change, and admitted to eating about a half a bowl full from trick or treat scavenging during the earlier part of the evening. My mother suggested a trip to the bathroom, a glass of warm milk, and getting in bed and going to sleep. I did what she said, and the pain started to go away. I was so relieved.

I was lying in bed thinking how stupid I had been to get scared by a mask on Halloween. I felt much better, and realized how silly I had been. This was Halloween, that’s all. I was safe now in my bed, in my bedroom where I could be a child again, and not feel scared of the dark because I kept my night light on and my mother was downstairs watching TV. And then it happened.

I was just dozing off when I heard my mother scream. “Johnny,” she yelled, “Come quick, it is your father. He fell down and grabbed his chest. I think he has had a heart attack. Run next door and get Doctor Able to come right over. Hurry Johnny, please hurry,” she cried.

I ran downstairs, and saw my father lying on the floor. He looked like he wasn’t breathing and white bubbly foam was coming out of his mouth. I ran outside and jumped off the front porch to go to our next-door neighbor, Doctor Able, for help.

That’s when I saw him again. The Face of Death was right in front of me keeping me from getting to the front door of Doctor Able. I tried to run past him, but he wouldn’t let me. Now I knew he wasn’t here for me, but I was still scared. Doctor Able came storming out of his house with his black medical bag; my mother must have called him. Suddenly The Face of Death disappeared.

I don’t know if this was the real thing, or just a Halloween prank gone horribly wrong, or my boy genius imagination run wild, or a terrible coincidence? My father recovered thank goodness, but I almost never go out on Halloween any more. I’ve come as close to facing death, as I want to on that holiday. Well maybe I’ll just go down the street for a little candy if the spirit of Halloween moves me, but I want to warn you to watch out for the Face of Death. Next year it could be you or your family that he is after. Next year this story could be real. Next year it might be your sense of reality that is challenged. Have a happy Halloween, and don’t eat too much candy.

Hi, I am Arthur Levine, the author of the novel Johnny Oops. To read more about Johnny and his fictional wild escapades please access:

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